Thursday, 22 October 2015

Review - 'The Flash', S02E03 - 'Family of Rogues'

The are many elements that have gone into making The Flash such an entertaining show in the time that it successfully spun-off from Arrow. It is, quite honestly, a show that has got much more right than it has wrong, so far. One of the more interesting elements for me, though, has been the odd, antagonistic yet almost respectful, relationship that has developed between Barry Allen and his most successful rival, Leonard Snart (better known, by now, as Captain Cold). Captain Cold knows who the Flash really is, but has agreed to keep that information to himself. Barry, meanwhile, has agreed to keep his distance so long as Captain Cold does not kill anyone. It is a fascinating balance that has been established between the two foes - and, one that I was eager to see receive more attention this season. Fortunately, I didn't have long to wait - as the second season's third episode, 'Family of Rogues', once more places the focus on Leonard Snart.

The action kicks off when Leonard's sister, Lisa (given the name 'Golden Glider' by Cisco, though it doesn't seem to have caught on as well as any of his other names. It also, as a side-note, still doesn't really fit this character - coming across more as an awkward attempt to include the name that the character uses in the comics) returns to Central City desperate for help. Her brother, it seems, has been kidnapped and his life is likely in danger. Barry is naturally dubious - though, when Lisa reminds him that he still owes her brother a favour after he saved Barry's life last season, he reluctantly agrees to investigate.

What Barry finds when he is able to track Leonard down, though, seems to suggest that, rather than being in any danger, Leonard is willingly working with his father, Lewis Snart (Michael Ironside), on a planned robbery. Following his brief encounter with Captain Cold, in which an opportunistic shot from Cold's 'cold gun' leaves him temporarily frozen, Barry is convinced that his initial suspicions have been proven accurate - and, that this whole situation was actually an elaborate trap. Lisa, however, is insistent that her brother would never willingly work with their father - revealing a history of abuse as proof. So, now, the Flash finds himself caught up in the Snart family's issues as he tries to achieve the dual goals of determining exactly how Lewis is compelling his son to work with him, while also working to stop their planned diamond hiest.

Michael Ironside is an actor who seems to have built much of his career on being intimidating in his various roles - and, as you might expect from someone who has been doing it for so long, he is definitely good at it. Thanks largely to his performance, Lewis Snart is able to make a much stronger impression than many other villains over the course of a single episode. Of course, Lewis Snart not being a meta-human (or, even having his own high-tech gun) made it somewhat difficult to believe that he was ever really a credible threat for the Flash - but, he still managed to come across as a genuinely intimidating and dangerous figure, in spite of that.

Of course, the true focus of this episode is the Snart siblings, themselves - which each finding themselves placed in an uncomfortable situation. While I'm aware that some other viewers have issues with Wentworth Miller's performance as Captain Cold (feeling, perhaps, that it often borders on hammy 'scenery chewing'), I've always enjoyed him in the role. Here, in the face of his abusive father, Leonard's deliberately 'cold' persona almost begins to resemble a defence mechanism - and, his clear disapproval of his father's senseless killing clearly seems to hint at his eventual development into the 'anti-hero' figure he will likely be by the time Legends of Tomorrow begins. Lisa Snart, meanwhile, is given ample opportunity to display genuine emotion as she finds herself forced into the vulnerable position of depending on people who have no reason to want to help her - and, in doing so, Peyton List is finally able to turn a character I was mostly ambivalent about last season into one I actually began to like. The suggestion that Lisa's flirting with Cisco might actually be, at least partially, motivated by genuine affection is also a nice touch.

While the 'diamond heist' sequence, itself, is mostly entertaining there was one moment, in particular, that bothered me enough that I have to mention it here. At one point during this sequence, we had a scene in which Captain Cold, apparently, is able to use his cold gun to freeze the laser beams of a security system. I honestly have no idea what the thinking behind this particular scene might have been - but, it definitely seemed to cross the line into being a bit too implausible, even for a show based on a comic-book.

The main focus of this episode is the Snart family, but there is also some screen-time devoted to moving along other plot-lines. Jay Garrick's efforts to develop a way of travelling through the stable rift found inside Star Labs in the previous episode seems to have been met with success - though, for now, he will be staying around to help deal with Zoom. Also, Dr. Stein's condition seems to be worsening after his collapse at the end of the previous episode - with the clear implication being that he is suffering the long-term effects of losing his connection to the other half of Firestorm. Both of these threads promise interesting developments in the future - though, they don't really contribute much to this episode.

A sub-plot involving Joe and his estranged wife who, it turns out, actually wasn't dead in spite of what everyone had been told is probably the weakest element of this episode, though. Francine West's sudden appearance, after everyone had believed her to be dead for so long, added another element of family-related angst to both Joe and Iris's lives - but, it did so in a way that felt overly melodramatic. It is, of course, important to acknowledge that the cast of supporting characters have lives beyond helping the Flash protect Central City. And, it is true that the best way to do this is to occasionally give the extended cast their own plot-lines. The problem, though, is that this particular plot development feels more like something taken straight out of a soap opera. Admittedly, it did lead to a genuinely great scene between Jesse L. Martin and Candice Patton, when the truth was eventually revealed - but, I still find myself hoping that this particular plot-thread is resolved soon.

In all, while it has its weaker elements, 'Family of Rogues' is still a very entertaining episode. It is an episode which manages to successfully humanise two of last season's recurring villains in an interesting way, while also possibly laying the foundation for Captain Cold's eventual inclusion in the cast of Legends of Tomorrow. It also manages to find the time to lay down a few more hints about future developments. Sure, the season's main arc concerning Zoom, and his efforts to kill the Flash, are entirely ignored - but, that's hardly a weakness for what is, essentially, a great stand-alone episode.

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